Doctors and Nurses: Please stop making fun of children’s names

There is a blog out there called The Gomer Blog that I despise. It is *supposed* to be like The Onion for doctors and nurses. Other than being uncreative and bland, the posts come across as snooty and mean-spirited, and I am always left with the sad yearning that medical and nursing schools will one day require classes on cultural competency and tact <sigh>.

I have worked at three hospitals in my careers, so roughly 70% of my friends are hospital workers. One post that made the rounds on my Facebook page was this one titled “Mutated Pediatric Names Linked to Higher Mortality.” I would say about 5–7 of my friends posted this over the last few months, and not one of them mentioned how offensive, racist, classist or all-around judgmental this article was.

First of all, why is it the doctor or nurses business anyway what people name their child? It’s not your role to make fun of a parent’s choice if it doesn’t harm the child. And no, having a “funny name” doesn’t harm the child. In an interview with The Improper Bostonian, Orange is the New Black actress Uzoamaka Aduba was asked if she ever considered changing her name. She responded:

When I started as an actor? No, and I’ll tell you why. I had already gone through that. My family is from Nigeria, and my full name is Uzoamaka, which means “The road is good.” Quick lesson: My tribe is Igbo, and you name your kid something that tells your history and hopefully predicts your future. So anyway, in grade school, because my last name started with an A, I was the first in roll call, and nobody ever knew how to pronounce it. So I went home and asked my mother if I could be called Zoe. I remember she was cooking, and in her Nigerian accent she said, “Why?” I said, “Nobody can pronounce it.” Without missing a beat, she said, “If they can learn to say Tchaikovsky and Michelangelo and Dostoyevsky, they can learn to say Uzoamaka.”

Secondly, while this article is directly making fun of names only, it is indirectly making fun of non-white, non-middle class, non-educated individuals. When I lived in China, I was given a Chinese name which has a beautiful poetic meaning. The friend who gave it to me wanted my Chinese friends to identify me with beauty and femininity, so gave me a name that matched that. My own parents, when naming me, made sure to give me a name that had special meaning and was unique; so they landed on Lua. My brother’s name is Zia for the same reason. Some parents just want their children to be unique. So what? Leave it alone.

But even if they don’t, and they are just show-casing their creativity, who cares? It’s none of your business what anyone names their children, unless it is your child. Many commenters on the post have the same concerns that I did; others responded by saying “lighten up, it’s satire.”

To the “lighten up” folks I say: When is the last time you did something culturally acceptable in your circle, but so unacceptable to the mainstream that you are showcased on a medical “satire” blog? Whether this is racism, classism, or not any -ism because “white people do it too” (so say many commenters) I say: check yourself friends. These are the people who you took an oath to care for. These are the people who trust you with their lives and the lives of their children. This kind of “sarcasm” is inappropriate and allows you to bask in your privilege at the expense of others. Go find someone your own size to make fun of.

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